Bad Weather and the JR

If you aren't familiar with our FaceBook page, you should sign up right now and become a fan of the JOIDES Resolution<.  One of our readers there posted a great question in response to my posts regarding the incoming Typhoon Vamco approaching us from the South.  I consulted the Captain and he gave me a great response, so I posted it.  In fact it was good enough to repost here.  So here you go...


From our fan Robert J Palmer: "I have a quick question I hope its not rude, but what would be the maximum "swells" and "winds" that the JR would handle "safely" ? The drilling rig alarms me as a probable target to the wind."

The extreme forces of nature in our vast oceans can be pretty daunting at times but if you consider a bottle with a good cork in it, the bottle will float forever unless damaged and water is allowed to enter. So, just like the bottle we must ensure that there is no water ingress in the JR by ensuring that the numerous weather tight doors and hatches are maintained in good condition and seal properly.

Next we must ensure that heavy equipment is properly secured and doesn't move with the movement of the vessel as this could cause injury to personnel or damage to the watertight integrity of the vessel. We must ensure our propulsion and steering is in good shape because loss of control in a storm would cause the vessel to turn beam to the seas and roll very violently causing equipment to break loose and damage to occur.

To the drilling tower or derrick. Yes it is high and acts like a sail on a yacht heeling the vessel over to one side. But the JR was constructed to be able to withstand winds of 100 kts when intact or 70 kts when damaged with one compartment flooded.

Tropical Revolving Storms, also named Hurricanes, Typhoons or Tropical Cyclones depending on your location can exceed 150 kts at times and are extremely dangerous on the high seas. Fortunately for the modern mariner we have excellent tracking predictions and weather forecasting. Also the tropical storms are small and slow moving weather systems so they are generally easy to avoid.

The main problem with the JOIDES Resolution in heavy weather is our people are not hardened seafarers and there is a large amount of delicate scientific equipment which we do not wish to damage even slightly.

We can put figures on the vessels movement roll pitch & heave which we can safely "work in". But to your quick question. What would be the maximum "swells" and "winds" that the JR would handle "safely"? She is a well built vessel and immensely strong, so let's just say "with the very experienced crew we have on board, I am happy to sail to the ends of the Earth on her".

Alex Simpson
JOIDES Resolution


And so as to not cause unnecessary alarm, the Captain offered this weather update today as we make our way to Japan:

Vamco is moving slower than predicted. Although it is fast losing its status as a Typhoon, it is actually set to intensify again as a major North Pacific depression with associated storm force winds as it moves into the Bering Sea. We set out on our original course when we left the site early this morning. We have now adjusted our course towards Kamchatka to avoid the worst of the storm and should enjoy favorable weather for the next few days. There is no delay associated with this course change.


your student catrina from 4th block

hey.. where u really scared of the typhoon how windy was it if it did your day go

Time zone?

Hi Doug,

Since you cross at least a couple of time zones during the voyage, that must get confusing-- unless you go by some sort of standardized time? How does "time zone" play during the voyage? Do you go by (I can't believe I'm about to make this terrible joke) maritime?

Best regards, Brian


lol. No really. I did.

We do keep ship's time set to a comfortable frame of reference which may or may not reflect our actual time zone position. The Captain decides when to alter it to make it as fair as possible to all shifts (noon-midnight and midnight-noon) as far as daylight work hours. He also seems to try to make the changes in spurts rather than one single hour every few days. So soon we'll get four days of extra hours in a row. They are also staggered at 02:00 and 14:00, so each shift gets extra work hours and sleep hours. If we were losing hours, it might be a bit different, but I am not sure. The bridge also tracks GMT and I think they not it in all official logs. In many places around the labs you'll see a clock marked Ship Time and one marked GMT. There are some marked College Station (the home of IODP, Texas A&M University and many of our techs). I use my iPhone World Clock and am tracking ship's time, Atlanta time (my home), Victoria time (where we left port) and Tokyo time (our destination).

Technically we've already crossed the dateline, but we will be making daily clock rotations over the next few days to catch up, and we get to lose Sunday as a special gift to our resident soon to be septuagenarian. Sunday happens to be his birthday. Hope this helps. Let me know if I need to elaborate further.

Are you a scientist now?

Hi Doug,

You're going to return from this trip thinking that you are some kind of scientist or something, aren't you? You'd better get one of the scientific crew to make you some sort of certificate or I'll never believe it! :-) Just kidding! I notice, however, that your lingo has changed from early blogs-- you have become more comfortable with the verbage of the scientific expidition and your explanations have become more detailed. We'll make a top notch scientist out of you yet, my boy!

Keep up the good work! It's been interesting reading and I am supremely jealous!

By the way, I remember you mentioning in an earlier blog that you had managed to avoid sea sickness up to that point. Have you still managed not to get sea sick? Of those that did get sick, has it been chronic, or have they become more accustomed to the conditions? How much seafood do you eat on the ship (very little, I would guess)?

Watch out for those first few steps on land because your body will be used to the rocking. I bet that it will take weeks before your equilibrium is recalibrated to land life! (that's not a joke-- ask around on the ship and report back your finds on this topic!)

Best regards, Brian


I was a scientist before I got on this boat. Just a mostly unpublished one. I can now count among my credits 60+ days of sailing time, which will aid me should I ever decide to get merchant marine certification. I am also at least conversant in many of the areas of science investigated on board. I've learned about geology and reading layers of sediment to tell about the Earth's past, but now I've seen and done it. I've worked with microfossils of many species. I've sampled various things for chemical analysis from sediment. But the key problem is practice. I haven't done any one thing enough to say I am an expert. But that's okay. I'll at least be able to share my experiences with my students. I am a 'learn by doing' sort of person.

I have yet to become sea sick. The folks who have had problems have learned to medicate early and often if the seas get rough. The problem hasn't seemed to go away as they've become adjusted though. Problems have been minimal since the rough start we had. But the Bering Sea was very calm, so that isn't too surprising. I imagine things will get worse in a day or so as we meet the effects of Typhoon Kravahn on his journey South. I'll keep you updated as to my condition as far as seasickness.

We actually eat quite a bit of seafood on board. I've had salmon, catfish, cod, shrimp and calamari. I may have missed some too. I only eat 3 of the four meals each day, and most days I only eat at 2 of those meals.

I've already heard about post cruise "land sickness". I can't wait. ;) But if getting adjusted is anything like getting adjusted to being out here, it won't be too bad. I may have trouble sleeping without the sound of water slapping against the hull though...

Marika Rosser 4th block

If I may ask, why nare you all going to Japan?


Sure thing! And a good question. The JOIDES Resolution doesn't have a home port, so there isn't a home location to head back to. Instead she finds a berth wherever is convenient between expeditions and crews change up, stores are restocked, supplies are loaded and she is refueled. The next one (Expedition 324) starts in Japan and goes to Australia. After that they go from Australia to New Zealand (Expedition 317).

It is also convenient, since Japan has played a big part in the planning of this expedition. One of the Co-Chiefs (Kozo Takahashi) is from Japan, and seven of the scientists are Japanese. The cores from this expedition will be stored in Kochi, Japan as well.

Japan operates another vessel in conjunction with the U.S. run JOIDES Resolution and the other vessels hired to work for the European consortium. That ship is called the Chikyu. Sadly, I don't think we'll get to see her there.

Alexus McCullum 4th block

Hi Mr.Lavgine
hope you have had a nice trip cant wait to meet you!!